by Richard Mallory Allnutt (Editor)
Back in June, we published Adam Estes’ marvelous article detailing the history and preservation status of Douglas A-1H Skyraider BuNo.134600, a former U.S. Navy example which went on to serve in combat with the South Vietnam Air Force. At the time, this Skyraider was nearing the end of its refurbishment within the restoration facility at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Well, we can now report that the museum has completed their work; they placed the aircraft on public display following a private unveiling ceremony on November 18th.
The Air Force Museum Foundation collaborated with the A-1 Skyraider Association to fund the Skyraider’s restoration, marking the first time that the Foundation has partnered with a single entity to finance such an endeavor. In describing some of the dividends which this joint effort produced, one of those closely associated with the restoration recently told us: “A team of four from the A-1 Skyraider Association not only did fundraising, but were instrumental in locating parts and arranging to have 3D printed parts made. We also did the bulk of the paint and markings research. As you say, many firsts: collaborating with another group and the use of large 3D parts.” When the museum first received the aircraft, it was basically an empty shell, but the restoration staff was able to obtain some of the missing pieces from their own stock or outside sources and fabricate the rest of what they needed. After eighteen months of hard work, they have created what can only be described as a masterpiece!
The museum has reconfigured and repainted this former U.S. Navy Skyraider to represent an example which served the U.S. Air Force in a Search & Rescue (SAR) role during the Vietnam War – this being Captain Ronald Smith’s A-1H 52-139738, nicknamed The Proud American. The markings which the aircraft presently bears are those which 52-139738 wore in June, 1972 while serving with the 1st Special Operations Squadron out of Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. Captain Smith received the Air Force Cross for his actions in The Proud American during the rescue of Captain Roger Locher deep inside North Vietnam on June 1/2nd, 1972. Captain Locher had been on the run for 27 days, having ejected from the rear seat of a 555th TFS F-4D when the aircraft was shot down in a fierce aerial duel with MiG-19s, MiG-21s and Shenyang J-6s (Chinese-built MiG-19). That mission is worthy of an article all of its own, but a snapshot of the details is available here…
The video below shows the aircraft being towed from the workshop to its new display position within the South East Asia War Gallery. The A-1H will become a key exhibit within this gallery, which is in the process of a thorough refresh set to open in the Spring of 2023.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force also just published another nice video (see below) with further details about the restoration which we feel our audience would also love to see.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and A-1 Skyraider Association are to be heartily congratulated for their collaborative effort in bringing this marvelous aircraft to its present condition; they have set a great example of what can be achieved when like-minded organizations work together towards a common goal. The aircraft is bound to be a popular exhibit in the years to come!